Mitt Romney gave yet another foreign policy speech today, in which he articulated his vision for the direction of United States foreign policy. Once again, Romney proved himself clueless on the actual state of the world as it exists today, preferring to look back at the last century and pretend Cold War policies would actually benefit this country. In Madeleine Albright's opinion, the speech was "full of platitudes, devoid of substance."
For an example of just how clueless the Romney campaign is, watch Romney spokesperson Tara Walls stammer and sputter as she tries to articulate the campaign's simplest foreign policy positions to Soledad O'Brien. You could watch that segment and take a pass on the speech, to be honest, because there was no "there" there.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joined a press call afterwards to offer her thoughts on Romney's speech, and she was blunt. Speaking on Libya, she said "first he was for intervention, now he's against it," and went on to say that she's concerned that he "doesn't have a sense of what tools to use" in today's world.
Expanding on those remarks, Albright said that she knows the people advising Governor Romney on his foreign policy positions, and they would simply reinstate Bush foreign policies. She wondered aloud whether anyone would ever ask Romney what it was he would have done differently, since he seems to be long on criticism and short on actual ideas.
One of the ongoing questions I have is why Romney seems so fixated on Russia. Albright spoke to that question as well, noting that while Russia has not been helpful with Syria, they've been very helpful with Iran and sanctions enforcement. She called Republicans' (and Romney's) fixation on Russia "truly out of date" and went on to say that if we were living in the 20th century he might have more basis for it, but not today, characterizing his remarks as having a "Cold War tone" to them which echoed his remarks earlier this year about Russia being our "number one ideological foe." And then today, this:
There is a longing for American leadership in the Middle East—and it is not unique to that region. It is broadly felt by America’s friends and allies in other parts of the world as well— in Europe, where Putin’s Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies, and where our oldest allies have been told we are “pivoting” away from them … in Asia and across the Pacific, where China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region … and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade, energy, and security. But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked: “Where does America stand?”
Indeed, one has the impression that Mitt Romney's foreign policy is to police the entire planet and bring military force to bear against countries that differ from his vision for what they should be. That's a dangerous game, one that has cost us dearly, both with respect to lives and finances. It's particularly dangerous when you blend that policy with his promise to cut taxes by trillions, leaving everyone in this country hanging out to dry while the military-industrial complex sucks up what's left of our own resources and more of our people die in other countries.
What would a Romney speech be without at least one outright lie? Not a Romney speech. Here is today's lie o' the day:
I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world. The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.
This is a flat-out lie. Trade agreements have been signed with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. I'm sure the Romney camp would claim that the word "new" in that sentence makes it true and not a lie, since the negotiations for these agreements were opened during the Bush administration. Nevertheless, they were approved in 2007 but not signed until 2011 after negotiations were completed to strengthen provisions concerning union members in Colombia, for example. Negotiations are ongoing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would open more markets for US exports.
What would a Romney speech be without a lie? A speech given by someone else.
Probably the most damning part of Albright's critique related to the shallowness and tone of the overall speech. She criticized his lack of attention to other areas of the world, saying he gave a "Middle East speech, then threw in two sentences on Latin America, a little on China and Russia" in order to brand it as a foreign policy speech. Following on that line of thought, she said he clearly doesn't seem to understand that something is always going on in some part of the world, and what happens in Latin America, for example, is more likely to have an impact than some of the areas he mentioned. In fact, she wondered aloud whether he bothered to read the briefing papers sent by the administration to him.
She also noted once again that his focus on Venezuela and Cuba was right out of the Cold War era, as though Mexico and other Latin American countries didn't exist in his foreign policy world view.
I really don't think this speech did very much for him. He didn't mention our troops still in Afghanistan, delivered a lot of fist-shaking and criticism on sensitive issues, and left the door open for use of force in countries without even considering diplomacy first. I'm not seeing a lot of positive reviews of his speech. Albright, referring to Romney's September 30th op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on foreign policy, said she "would give it a C" if one of her students turned that in.
The Obama campaign has a different message for Mitt. Campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said "Bring it on!"
In the last two weeks, Romney has lost his message on the economy, on taxes, and now on foreign policy. I fully expect him to trot out a weird conspiracy theory next, since he doesn't have substance to fall back on.